Florianópolis, then. Again, Juliana had put me in contact with a friend whom I could meet up with. I completely didn’t expect that I’d end up staying at her place. I arrive on Tuesday evening and gave Renata a call because she knew of some nicer places to stay that were away from the fairly generic-looking downtown area. We checked out a couple of them, and despite the high tourist season finishing a few weeks ago, they were both fully booked. So she offered me her sofa.
She lives in a lovely part of Florianópolis that has a feeling like a little seaside village, but near a lagoon not the sea. Here she lives with her adorable three-year-old son Nikolas, the nanny Silvia, and Silvia’s ten-year-old daughter, Jennifer. (I guess I should explain here that having a nanny seems to be a lot more normal here than it would be in the UK. What isn’t so normal, though, is Renata’s decision to allow the nanny’s daughter to live here too. I’ve heard heart-breaking tales of nannies living with a family, and not getting to see their own children very often. Here, though, I’m staying with two single mothers and their lovely, smiling children.)
It’s been kind of a blur so far. No big “tourist” moments, no capital-letters seeing of sights; just being here. And it’s fun. I’ve eaten lovely Italian, Thai, and vegetarian food; I’ve played ball with Nikolas a lot; I’ve put my baseball cap on his head and watched him walk around with it over his face pretending to be a monster (Red Sox fans: insert your own joke here, if you must); I’ve seen oyster farms in the sea, I’ve seen the beautiful villages around the lagoon on (in?) the island; Renata and I have spent a lot of time talking; and last night, your atheist Flip Flop Flyin’ blogger joined Renata at her Buddhist temple thingy for the wotsit that they do there.
I went along, not even considering that I’d have to take my shoes off, I just didn’t think about it. If I had, I’d have made sure I put clean socks on. When we were stood by the door and Renata took off her shoes, I felt a clunk in head: you’re wearing the trainers you’ve worn every single day for the past two months, Craig, your socks are bound to be stinky. Thankfully, they weren’t as bad as they could’ve been. We go inside, and I immediately feel like I’m an intruder. This isn’t my place. I’m not religious. Why am I here? Not “why am I here?” in a spiritual, soul-searching sense; but “why am I here?” in a “I could be watching that ‘The Hunt For Red October’ DVD back at Renata’s apartment” sense.
I followed Renata’s lead; grabbed a cushion and sat down. I kinda crossed my legs like a kid in junior school assembly. No lotus position for me. It was so quiet. Apart from the cat that was walking around and occasionally miaowing because, I think, he had already sussed me out as an unbeliever. I wasn’t obliged to do anything in particular. I figured that smoking a cig wouldn’t go down well, though, so kept my Luckies in my pocket. I was a guest, and the woman who was leading things welcomed me, told me I could meditate with them. Err, thanks. The closest I’ve ever previously got to meditating was sitting in a cinema in Derby watching the amazingly boring film “The Age of Innocence” when I was feeling really hungry: please let it end, please let it end, please let it end…
A few folks arrived, then they all started doing their sing-songy prayer stuff in Portuguese and whatever-language-it-is-that-they-speak-in-Tibet. People had their hands together, and their eyes closed. It all sounded quite nice, though. But I had pins and needles. And the bloody cat kept trying to walk all over me… And my back was aching a bit… I wish that mosquito would bugger off… Oooh, I wonder what Torres’ goal against Inter Milan was like… Must watch that on YouTube when I get the chance… I wonder who we’ll get in the quarter finals… I hope it’s Schalke 04… When is the draw anyway? Friday, I think…
All the praying came to an end, and I uncrossed my legs, put the cushion back, nodded goodbye to the women leading the thing, and went and grabbed my shoes. I was unenlightened. But I had a lighter. So I had a smoke. And then we went for pizza. Four cheeses. Damn good it was, too.